You know what the worst part of having eczema (or just about any other skin issues) is? It's that people look at you and there's a reaction to how you look. As a kid, most other kids used to stay as far away from me as possible because they were afraid of catching whatever it is that I had, no matter how many times I'd explain that a genetically inherited condition wasn't contagious. Of course, after seeing my nth dermatologist who was able to prescribe me a successful cocktail of topical steroids combined with low-strength sleeping pills (to "calm my nerves", apparently), I was able to finally get my eczema under control in high school and beyond.
Over the years, I became disenfranchised with having to apply my steroidal ointments all the time. Eventually, I stopped taking the sleeping pills and started to slowly wean myself off the ointments. When I went Paleo, talk about a game changer! For once, my rashes were slowly going away for good. And whenever I did have them, I didn't feel like the layers just underneath the surface of my skin were on fire. Which, I have to tell you, is the SECOND worst thing about my eczema: feeling like you are on fire just underneath your skin. And not just a regular fire, but a fire that's feels like it's being fueled by ALL the combustibles. A fire so hot that you may as well be the sun, warming all the things around you. And every scratch you try to not make but make anyway makes it even hotter, if that's even possible.
What with all the changes I've been going through the last couple years, my skin was finally starting to look as healthy and awesome as when I was a Paleo newbie. Family and friends were telling me how much healthier I looked, how awesome my skin was looking, and how I was just positively radiating all kinds of happiness. In fact, when I look back, I have to say that I was looking pretty damn good on my birthday last year (celebrated with some really awesome friends at Chris Cosentino's Cockscomb). Yes, I wore makeup, but I can proudly say that it was just eye makeup (eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara). I feel even almost ashamed to admit that whenever I looked in the mirror, I thought that I was beautiful, like radiantly beautiful. Finally, here was the person I always felt that I was meant to look like.
|Flourless chocolate cake and ice cream for moi!|
Not long after, I started to slide. There's nothing specific that I can actually pinpoint. Even though I gave up smoking a looooong time ago (yes, I used to be quite the heavy-handed smoker who used to smoke up to two... count 'em, TWO packs a day), I found myself picking it up again. And only on the weekends. Weird, right? I never craved a cigarette during the week but it was so easy for me to light one up whenever my cousin and his wife would light up.
In addition to the weekend smoking, I had a really hard time with both falling asleep and STAYING asleep. It was always the absolute WORST on Sunday nights when my boys return with their father to begin another week at school and oftentimes, I just didn't end up sleeping at all. I'd be exhausted when I made it in to work and as soon as I got home, I'd just crash and nap for a few hours. Which also really sucked, because that meant that I would have a hard time with sleeping that night, and the night after, and the night after that. Even when my boys were with me, I couldn't sleep because I wanted to enjoy every single moment of being able to snuggle and cuddle with them, knowing that I wouldn't get to do so for another week. Eventually, I took to drinking a hard alcohol at bedtime to help me get drowsy enough. And as these things go, I found myself getting to work some mornings and realizing that I was still a tad drunk from the night before. Since this was obviously becoming an issue, I made the switch to using Valerian root instead.
My diet also started to slowly slide downhill. I'm with a small company and being that there's only 7 of us, a lot of the times where we'd have company lunches, it would be sandwiches or pizza. I tried to bring my own lunches and food a few times, and while I wasn't ostracized for not partaking of the food, I wasn't exactly cheered on either.
Honestly, I wanted to cry. All the damn time. I hated missing my children. I hated the fact that I was sliding downhill. I hated the fact that I was sliding downhill when I really should be showing them what a strong and independent woman is all about. Eventually, my rashes spread throughout my body and I was back at the point where I felt like my entire body was on fire. My face, my scalp, my neck, my ears, my shoulders, my back, my arms, my hands, my fingers, my trunk, my feet. It even got so bad that both my thighs were so severely bruised from my hard scratching and my bedsheets would have spots of dried blood on it. The negative feedback loop was really spiraling out of control.
Eventually, I realized that I really needed to make the change. The very first step was having to admit that I was really depressed. I wasn't coping well at all. In the last year, I've moved out on my own back to my hometown and I've changed jobs. I don't have very many super close friends and those who were were busy planning their weddings, taking care of their families, or just plain lived too far away and had their own lives. While I know that if I knew I had a really close friend who was in my situation, I'd be MAD AS HELL that my friend didn't reach out to me, no matter how busy I was, my personality is such that I just want to trouble people with my issues as little as possible. A very I'll-always-be-there-for-you-but-don't-you-worry-about-me mentality. Not that I needed to be with someone all the time, especially since I'm actually quite an introverted person, but I definitely felt alone without having a solid support structure in place. Sure, I have my wonderful cousin and his lovely wife, but I also needed someone to really give me a good, hard kick to my ass and scream some sense into me. Coincidentally enough, it's my cousin's younger brother David (who I've always treated as a younger brother) who, whenever I did see him, would give me that look. You know which look I'm talking about? The look that says what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-because-I'm-worried-as-Hell-for-you.
So with all that, I decided that I really needed to take back control of my life again. I had to control my rashes and my life with all the means at my disposal. I realize that this is a little over a month into my quest so it doesn't really count as a set of "Before" pictures but here you go:
You can see the inflamed skin of my eyelids and my cheeks and jawline. Believe it or not, but this is already 80% better than it was when I resolved to do better.
My cheeks, jawline, and neck. Just as with my eyelids, this is also now significantly better because the skin is just dark pink/light red and the area has shrunk by a lot. You can still see vestiges of the rash that was so effing persistent on my clavicle and the upper part of my chest. The best part of my quest is that right now, I don't feel like the layers under my skin are burning anymore. If it is, it's hardly noticeable.
Of course, I also had a couple weddings to go to and I was absolutely mortified at the prospect of going looking the way that I did. Thank God for makeup! And thank God for Hayley for having told me about Jane Iredale and her fabulous line of war paint! Instead of looking terrible, I managed to look pretty decent.
But all that lowering inflammation stuff wouldn't be possible if I didn't make small changes in my life. Starting with how my day begins. I spend about 15 - 20 minutes in one of the nice conference rooms here in my building meditating and slowing down my thought processes as much as possible. I usually start with Standing Tree to get my mind to slow down, to focus.
Which, I think, is pretty freaking easy to do when this is your view:
|A view of the Bay|
After Standing Tree, I'll do a couple of super basic yoga moves: Downward Dog, Upward Dog, Warrior 1, and Warrior 2. If anything, this has really helped me with my neck and back since I was in a pretty rough car accident back in February. In general, it's just good that bend that way since I work at a desk and at a biosafety cabinet a lot and I'm usually hunched over.
And of course, now that I have my Magic Bullet, I'm following up with my Super Detox Anti-Inflammation A$$-Kicker (recipe coming soon), filled with all the awesome anti-inflammatory stuff I can possibly fit in. And, by the way, I also drink this at night right after dinner as my dessert. All this by 8am too!
|Getting my green 'stache on|
Last but not least, I've really cut down on my drinking to social occasions (I'm sorry, I won't go dry during Happy Hours with good friends) and I quit smoking (again!).
In the last month since I started this Anti-Depressant and Anti-Inflammation quest, I've been sleeping better. I fall asleep with way more ease than I have in the last 6 - 7 months, and it's easier to STAY asleep because I'm not waking up drenched in hot sweat and itching like crazy and having to get up and douse myself in baby powder. I'm learning to cook for 1 - 2 people (2 because I actually need to eat something for lunch the next day) and so far, I have no complaints. Well, okay... I do have a complaint. The parking at my Trader Joe's. That parking lot is just too damn tiny and a trip there feels like a trip to Costco. It seriously feels like the entire population of my town converges on that tiny place at the same time, which is most hours of the day. Who do I have to heckle to build a 5-story parking garage???
Back to the inflamed skin and depression business, yes, I'm frustrated that my skin isn't magically bouncing back to what it was on my birthday last year. I'm still using the topical steroids I was prescribed, but now I'm using the lowest strength ointment about once a week (as opposed to the stronger one every other day, if not every day). So I'm constantly reminding myself that it took me 7 months to get to my low point, so it's going to take me quite a few months to get myself back to where I need, and should, be.